It’s “Pastry Week” on The Great British Bake Off, and I’ve still not recovered from losing Freya. But the girls are being positive going into the tent—Crystelle says one of them will finally win star baker “for Freya,” which is a display of wholesome feminism we can all get behind.
The signature challenge is choux-nuts, which are essentially deep-fried profiteroles in a donut shape. Choux-nuts are pretty obscure and generally not worth the hassle of making as they only taste good for about 10 minutes after they are cooked. The tricky part is keeping their shape as they go in the fryer. The normal test of choux is that it has a “dropping consistency” and will plop off a spoon in one go, not exactly the dream substance to be handling around a hot vat of oil.
Lizzie’s raspberry liqueur and hibiscus combination sounds delicious, as do Giuseppe’s limoncello ones. George seems to be going with classic flavors (wise decision, given his tendency to get a bit overwhelmed), focusing mostly on his pastry, but Chigs is being extremely ambitious with two types of choux, including a chocolate one that will inevitably be on the tougher side. Crystelle is making miso caramel, which makes Noel mock her for being “middle class,” a small moment that speaks to the absolutely deranged British relationship between class and food.
George’s classic choux-nuts are excellent, aside from a couple of filling issues which lead Prue to make a comment about holes, bags, and squirting that is so filthy it cannot be repeated. Even Matt seems close to fainting after hearing it. Jürgen’s 1970s ones look a little messy, but they impress the judges, and Chigs’ ambition works in his favor—the Paris-Brest ones look particularly delicious. Lizzie manages to make exceptional choux-nuts despite hating them. Only Crystelle’s seem truly disappointing, and she seems devastated. Is it possible that our only hope at a female star baker might actually be Lizzie?
The technical is baklava and involves making your own filo pastry, which is deliciously cruel! Filo is a notoriously difficult pastry because, unlike with most pastry, you want to develop the gluten as much as possible and then laminate it to create lots of distinct flaky layers. Even Cypriot George is quaking in his apron and Prue thinks this might be the most difficult technical they’ve ever set.
They are aggressively kneading their dough (why is no one using the dough hook on their mixer? Much faster!) before doing a series of intricate folds to create all the lovely crispy baklava layers. To be fair to the bakers, the results are pretty decent despite the difficulty of the challenge. Lizzie is in last place which feels like a nail in the coffin of our female star baker dream although Crystelle recovers from a poor signature with second place, only surpassed by the Jürgenator.
What makes Jürgen such a great baker on the show (aside from being a great baker, of course) is how openly he cares about winning and gets annoyed when he underperforms. It’s a refreshing change from the majority of contestants that act like they think it is hilarious when their bakes go badly.
The showstopper challenge is terrine pie, which is a great choice! Hot water crust pastry is absolutely horrible: Fun fact, it was originally invented as a disposable casing. But the terrine element is a fun one; lots of opportunities to show off new skills and flavors. All the bakers are being ambitious with their terrines, filling the pies with lots of layers and design elements. There is also lots of sentimentality going on, particularly with Crystelle’s tribute to her grandmother’s Kenyan cottage filled with layers of her signature curries.
George’s Christmas dinner pie sounds delicious, but he runs into some difficulties—first, in over-freezing his interior, and then his lid is a disaster. Not even a bit of Greek dancing seems lift him out of his depression. It is a truly harrowing moment when he looks up from his pie at the camera and whispers those dreaded words: “soggy bottom.”
Amanda’s is a complete disaster; one side has collapsed and the contents are bone dry and not particularly tasty. George’s is equally messy but his flavors are a little better. At the other end of the spectrum, Giuseppe’s owl is utterly charming and has neatly piped contents; Lizzie’s fish pie has perfectly cooked salmon and spinach around little potato fishes; and Crystelle is in a league of her own with a cottage pie filled with a terrine of curries that is as delicious as beautiful to behold. Paul sneaks in another handshake to an overwhelmed Crystelle. Nothing better than when someone triumphs with a bake that’s intensely personal to them.
It’s time for star baker and HURRAH! Crystelle manages to come back from a poor signature to become our first female winner. As for the eliminated baker, it is Amanda and I don’t think anyone, including her, would argue that it wasn’t her time to go. Going forward George is going to have a rough time proving himself as this is the second week in a row that he’s been at the bottom.
Next week is “Caramel Week”! Expect your reviewer to be triggered as caramel has given her many a second degree burn in the past.
- What is the jacket Prue is wearing? It has multi-colored stripes and says “Lift You High”—strong cult leader vibes.
- I know I keep going on about Freya, but I would have been really interested to find out about the vegan alternatives to choux pastry, terrine, and hot water crust.
- Paul says he doesn’t like giving out handshakes, so I’m glad we are agreed. Although I suppose like the bakers receiving them; I just hate the weird power kick he seems to get out of them.
- Crystelle’s family screaming over the phone at her being star baker and then starting another chorus of screams when she tells them about the handshake bought actual tears to my eyes.
- I’m not kidding when I say the British relationship with class and food is bonkers. There have been recent food shortages in the U.K. (thanks, Brexit), and people complaining about it were derided as being too “middle class” because they wanted fancy foods like parsley, eggplants and lemons. LEMONS. What Noel did when he mocked miso (which is not an expensive ingredient and a staple of Japanese food) is typical of the weird way “foreign” and “elite” get conflated. It’s a fascinating topic that I suggest reading food writer Jonathan Nunn or novelist Huw Lemmey on.